Appropriation and the Body: Representation in Contemporary Black Brazilian Art

by Kimberly Cleveland


In reflecting on the past and present, some contemporary Black Brazilian artists working in the secular field have identified similarities between themselves and previous generations of Africans in Brazil, based on their shared experiences of racial and sexual discrimination. Artists Eustáquio Neves and Rosana Paulino create works with historical and contemporary references that highlight past and current power imbalances in Brazilian society and seek to correct them. These artists appropriate what have traditionally been White “spaces of control” in their country and confront contemporary race-related social challenges by creating in their work alternative depictions of Africans and African descendents in Brazil. Through their representations, Neves and Paulino infuse their own and other Black bodies with meaning and respect and show that they, too, have been challenged but not broken by the struggles they have faced in their lifetimes.

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